Thursday, March 5, 2015


 In my last blog I mentioned a visit I had with Betty Leblanc of New Iberia, Louisiana in which we chatted about the various "Celtic creatures" she had placed around small tables on her sun porch—fairies, gnomes, angels—otherworld beings that speak of Betty's Scottish background. As Betty's antecedents were members of the Beane Clan, we took turns talking about Scottish lineage. I told her about my mother's Greenlaw ancestors, descendants of the Hume clan, who named a town in southern Scotland "Greenlaw." Mother was always telling stories or reading books about fairies to us when I was a child, and in an introduction to my book Their Adventurous Will, I described her as one who really believed in Tinker Bell, a fairy heroine in Peter Pan. She believed that fairies had an angelic nature, that they were winged creatures dressed in gossamer clothing, and that they danced in the flames of space heaters in the various rooms of our home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She thought that they helped with household tasks, made fairy rings in the woods at night, and advocated that these otherworld creatures should always be offered hospitality.

Betty seems to agree that fairies have more of an angelic nature than ancient Scottish beliefs tout. Ancient believers attributed mischief to these winged creatures, and some Scots who preceded Christianity even thought that they were members of a conquered race living in hiding. I think that Betty, whose hospitality is unsurpassed, possesses that Scottish quality of making folks comfortable when they visit. She reminds me of C. S. Lewis's description of his mentor George MacDonald, a Scots preacher of the 19th and early 20th centuries, who was introduced to readers of Lewis's An Anthology of George MacDonald as a man with a sunny disposition and a talent for providing generous hospitality. MacDonald, a devout Christian, also offered the winged otherworld creatures hospitality, and in his writings he used fantasy as a genre to explore the human condition.

This year, Betty tried to "outbest" her daughter, who always gives unique gifts at Christmas, with a very unlikely Scottish gift—she presented her with a deed to a souvenir one square foot of land in Glencoe Wood Nature Reserve in the Scottish Highlands, a spot that contains some of the most stunning scenery in the world. Two enterprising Scots, a biologist and an accountant, purchased the Keil Estate in Appin, Scotland with a mission of "protecting ancient and semi-natural woodlands and open-ground habitats, upgrading non-native conifer plantations to new native broadleaf plantings, and protecting the conserved lands from ever being developed." In less ecological words, they wanted to protect flora and fauna of beautiful Scottish highlands by offering ownership of small plots. Landowners who buy as small a plot as one square foot can visit and walk down signed footpaths into Glencoe Wood, an area rich in ancient oak and birch woods where badgers, fox, hedgehog, and the rare Scottish cross bill live. A gift of one square foot, which Betty gave her daughter, also entitles the landowner to be called a Lord, Laird, or Lady. Now there's an invitation to all of you Scots out there!

Perhaps Betty is among only a few who would want to own or give away this bit of undeveloped land in remote Scotland, but, then, not everyone has a sun porch filled with objects from Peter Pan territory either. As far as she's concerned, who knows how many otherworld spirits inhabit the pristine interior of Glencoe Wood?

No comments: